August 22, 2006

Becoming Competent at Spotting Cultural Competency & Incompetency

The latest buzzwordian phrase seems to be "cultural competency", which supposedly means "sharpening skills to build relationships across differences". Concerning this, a friend writes:
The latest buzz - "cultural competency" - has insinuated itself into my mind. If there is cultural competency, that implies the existence of cultural incompetency. How do you know if you are culturally competent ? Do such things as an extensive familiarity with Seinfeld episodes count ? Do I have to like pizza and hot dogs ? Is there a test I can take ?
Good questions all. Tis a beautifully buzzword-ish phrase, isn't it? I'll check the ol' checklist:

1) Is it alliterative? Yes
2) Is it richly multisyllabic? Does it sound impressive said aloud? - Yes, yes
3) Does it make little sense on its own? Yes
4) Does the phrase include the word "competency"? Yes!

Bingo! I see a very bright future for this phrase. Another friend responded with his typical incandescent brilliance:
I can better understand examples of cultural competency if I had an example, such as:

  • Winning at Trivial Pursuit by knowing that The Skipper's real full name was Jonas Grumby, or that a giraffe has the highest blood pressure of any animal, or that an octopus has two hearts, or that the two Spanish words uttered by Roberto Duran when Sugar Ray kicked his ass were "no mas"
  • Singing the "Oy-vey Maria" at a Jewish-Catholic wedding.
  • If some agar scored high on the apgar.

    Examples of cultural incompetency would include:

  • A Sherpa guide with really good hiking boots and a map.
  • Vanilla Ice
  • An Amish dude who leaves his high paying high pressure Silicon Valley tech job while talking on his cellphone on a con call with the venture capital guys and the new product developers, and texting on his Blackberry with his admin to deliver flowers to his mistress and order an anniversary gift for his wife, takes care not to ruffle his full Armani ensemble as he gets into his BMW, takes a call on his personal cell to arrange for a suitable temp to replace his nanny who is really on a leave of absence to prepare a harrassment lawsuit against him, and thinks to himself "ah, thou hast a simple life, dostn't thou?"
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